On Oct. 31, John M. Bailey (pictured) will be sworn in as the newest justice on Eastland’s 11th Court of Appeals. But he’s already taken care of a critical task -- something that’s almost as important as taking the oath of office for a judge who works inside the Eastland County Courthouse.
“I have pledged allegiance to Old Rip,” Bailey says.
For the uninitiated, Old Rip is the legendary hibernating horny toad that was entombed inside the old Eastland County Courthouse for 31 years, then emerged alive in 1928 from the building’s cornerstone when it was torn down for a new courthouse.
Tradition in the present courthouse is that incoming law clerks at the 11th Court must pledge to uphold the legend of Old Rip when they come to work at the court, as Bailey did in 1992 when he clerked for the 11th Court’s former Chief Justice Austin McCloud.
But Bailey has a stronger connection to the building than his sworn duty to uphold the legend of a spikey reptile.
“I grew up in the courthouse, with my dad being the county judge when I was a kid,’’ Bailey says of his late father, Scott Bailey, Eastland County judge for 36 years. “For as long as I’ve had my professional career I’ve aspired to work at the court,” Bailey says.
Gov. Rick Perry appointed Bailey on Oct. 15 to replace Terry McCall, who is retiring from the bench.
“It means a lot,” Bailey says about serving as a judge in the building that played a role in his childhood, his young adulthood and, now, his future.
-- John Council